May 2, 2009
4 Sworn, Session One:
Next Session: May 30, 2009
He arranged his belongings on the bench; his jacket, coffee, and case, then walked across the plaza in search of a signal which he never seemed to find. He just kept walking -- around the towering buildings and down broad stairs to the busy street below the plaza. From there, he moved briskly to the street corner where he hailed a passing cab and rode off.
In time, a cop on his beat walked through the plaza. He approached that bench and looked around for the owner of the abandoned items. Using his nightstick, he brushed aside the jacket and noted that the case was secured by a chain wrapped around the bench's leg. Now suspicious, he spoke into his radio and backed away. Eventually, other officers arrived and they began to move people out of the Plaza.
Meanwhile, a cab sped up West Side Highway containing the gentleman who had left the items that were only then beginning to arouse suspicion. It pulled over and the man with the cell phone emerged beside a block of gentrified buildings in an otherwise run-down part of the meatpacking district. He looked back at the Twin Towers reaching high into the blue sky and smiled, then turned to look at his phone. He used a stylus to page through his directory of contacts. There. That was it. "Israfil". He took a single step around the corner of the building and selected that name.
His cellphone reached out at 850MHz and contacted a nearby base station controller. The controller identified the calling cellphone and the call destination and passed the information on to the network switching subsystem. A computer there noted the destination as a cellphone and consulted its home location register for the physical location of "Israfil" and its nearest base station. Noting the cellphone was near a macro-cell base station controller atop the World Trade Center, it interrogated that base station over a slightly shifted frequency. That station reached out with a relatively low-power interrogation of its own, calling for the cellphone associated with "Israfil" which responded with a code that essentially said, "I'm powered and ready to receive a call." Coordinated by the network switching subsystem, the two base stations began exchanging information in preparation for voice communications. The "Israfil" cellphone began to ring and even knew who was calling, with information helpfully passed along by the first base station.
In the weeks that followed, everyone had opinions about the worst act of terrorism ever perpetrated on American soil. Even the thwarted effort to crash two jetliners into those same buildings nearly three years earlier compared weakly. With thousands dead, politicians quickly capitalized on the fear and used it to enact legislation intended to protect the public from undetermined threats using new regulations that would have done nothing to prevent the incident in the first place. Rescue workers sacrificed their own health in the desperate search for survivors. The country rallied and donated blood, food, and money to help the wounded, and the world looked on mutely as the last standing super power swayed on its feet and spun savagely in search of a target to strike back at.
Based on the level of destruction, the blast was generally believed to have been caused by one of the so-called "suitcase nukes" reported by Russian General Lebed in the late 1990s as having been stolen. The Islamic terrorist group al-Qaeda took credit for the bombing. Some facts didn't add up, however, and conspiracy theories abounded about the bomb and the responsible agencies.
The Federal government and the Mayor of New York quietly declined the offer of assistance from System 4ce who waited a year for results.
On May 25, 2005, that year ended, and System 4ce, aboard their flagship XTS Firehawk, steamed into the city's harbor.
* * *
Noting the dead ends to date in investigations of the Trade Center bombing, System 4ce commenced its own inquiry. In particular, the characteristics of the blast did not quite match what would be expected of a "suitcase nuke". Some fringe speculation pointed to a "Hafnium isomer bomb", though samples from the site supposedly contained no trace hafnium.
Victorine viewed Earth parallels in search of clues. In the closest-seeming parallel, she followed the apparent bomber away from the WTC, and saw him use a PDA-cell phone to detonate the bomb, calling a number tagged as "Israfil". This was later identified as the Arabic name for the archangel Raphael, and Perdition recognized it as the subject of a poem by Edgar Allen Poe.
Meanwhile, Anastasia, Shockwave, and Perdition secretly raided the Ansar al-Islam base in Iraq to rescue women under death sentence for adultery, school attendance, and other sharia violations. While clearing the base, they found files and lab equipment relating to chemical weapons research. The files also referenced a visit to the facility by a "Man with Green Gloves", a reference Perdition realized may be of significance to the Secret Masters. The group resolves to keep their findings secret for the time being.
An alarm in the Firehawk's Situation Room indicated a possible supervillain attack on the British Museum in London. The team responded via Victorine's portal, arriving nearly instantly to a scene of chaos. Skeletons wielding swords and pikes -- apparently re-animated museum artifacts -- chased visitors out through the main gate.
Galax distracted the skeletons as Crysto, Shockwave, Victorine, and Zap went around them and into the main hall where they found Archdeacon Hellfrost armed with the Thanocaster, a horrific mockery of a guitar whose malodious notes could kill. Crysto used vibratory powers in an attempt to destroy the Thanocaster, which seemed to vanish into some sort of spacial rift, taking a surprised Archdeacon with it.
Cestus and Perdition went around outside to a wing where the Meso-American exhibit was housed and confronted The Flaming Skull attempting to steal the Mask of Tezcatlipoca. "I thought superheroes always paid admittance," cackled the Skull. Cestus grabbed the artifact to protect it, and Perdition shot the Skull with his orichalcum bullets. The museum's crystal skull, apparently stolen earlier by the villains, was recovered from one of the animated hench-skeletons.
After the situation was contained, the team learned a diamond-encrusted skull, "For the Love of God", was stolen from London's White Cube gallery while they were battling Hellfrost and The Flaming Skull in the British Museum.